The Pomegranate Tree by Vanessa Altin, reviewed by Piers Torday
There is no denying that this is a tough read. Former journalist Vanessa Altin was inspired by her interviews with Kurdish children in a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border; she has an eye for a hard story, and there are not many harder than those she has told here. A teenager is taught how to fire an assault rifle, to gruesome effect. Children must pick paths through minefields, or hide under piles of bodies to survive.
There is a powerful precedent for this, of course. It was through the diary of another teenage girl, Anne Frank, that countless children first encountered the Holocaust. Apparently some bookshops sell The Pomegranate Tree with a “health warning”, out of concern for parents’ reactions. The instinct to protect childhood is always understandably strong. But Dilly and thousands like her have enjoyed no such protection. At the very least, we should hear their story.